Juneteenth celebration ideas: Juneteenth parade

Now a federal holiday, Juneteenth is a relatively new concept to many Americans even though it has been celebrated since 1865. With increasing celebrations and recognition across the country, it’s a perfect opportunity to learn more about Black history in America, foster understanding, and start critical dialogue. 

Here, we’ll share some of the best Juneteenth celebration ideas, including simple actions you can take to support Black-owned businesses, educational activities to learn more about Black history, and joy-filled ways to celebrate the day’s cultural significance. 

What’s the History of Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a day that marks the freedom of enslaved people. The history behind Juneteenth is tied to acts during the Civil War and years of struggle to truly end slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation technically ended slavery in secessionist Confederate states in 1863 during the Civil War, but the reality is that slavery continued for years afterward. The proclamation only applied to Confederate states and not slave owners in rebel-held territories where the Union was in control. Places like Texas, which Union troops still hadn’t reached, continued to allow and even encourage slavery. 

It wasn’t until two years later in 1865 that Union army and General Gordon Granger finally reached Texas and the end of slavery was implemented. Juneteenth stands for June 19th, the day federal troops went to Galveston, Texas, and took control of the state. While the process wasn’t instant — slavery officially ended months later with the 13th Amendment — it was the beginning of emancipation and celebrations broke out across the state.

The following year was the first official Juneteenth celebration, called Jubilee Day — now also called Emancipation Day, Independence Day, or Freedom Day. The festivities included barbecues, church services, and dancing. 

Texas was the first state that made June 19th an official holiday in 1979. It would take more than 40 years for it to become a national holiday, when President Joe Biden signed a resolution in 2021.

Today, millions of Americans celebrate the significance of Juneteenth and civil rights progress with Juneteenth activities. Read on for Juneteenth celebration ideas to pay tribute to the importance of this historical day.

10 Juneteenth Celebration Ideas

Here, we’ve put together a list of ways to celebrate Juneteenth whether it’s by supporting Black-owned businesses, attending a lively cookout, or listening to a podcast. The good news is that you can pay tribute to this culturally significant day not just on June 19th but year-round.

1. Support Black-Owned Businesses

Spend the day supporting Black-owned businesses in your community. You can dine at a Black-owned restaurant or visit a shop that sells products from Black artists. You can use apps like EatOkra to find Black-owned eateries across the country. If you’re hosting a Juneteenth party, ask a Black-owned business to cater the event or supply the decorations. 

2. Celebrate With a Cookout

Juneteenth celebration ideas: Juneteenth Flag Motif Invitation

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Invitation Inspiration: Juneteenth Flag Motif Invitation

Cookouts and BBQ parties are a great way to get friends and family together to celebrate Juneteenth. Serve classic Southern fare like jerk chicken, baked beans, and deviled eggs. Many people choose to serve food using colors found on the Juneteenth flag, especially red. Red symbolizes the bloodshed and resilience of enslaved people. Popular red foods include red velvet cake, red meat sauces, and summer fruit like strawberries. Don’t forget red drinks like hibiscus iced tea.

3. Watch Documentaries

Juneteenth is an important day and a great time to learn more about Black culture and history. Set time aside to watch documentaries on the Civil War, social justice, and racial equality. Look for films made by Black directors or featuring Black artists.

4. Play Juneteenth Trivia

Deconstructed Flag Invitation

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Invitation Inspiration: Deconstructed Flag Invitation

Trivia is always a lively way to learn more about almost any topic. Play Juneteenth trivia — or trivia featuring Black pop culture topics like Black Card Revoked. You’ll have fun with friends and family and broaden your scope of knowledge. 

5. Visit a Culturally Significant Site

Spend the day learning more about racial equality and the history of the social justice movement by visiting culturally significant sites. Most museums have special exhibitions at this time of the year and special presentations on Juneteenth. 

Make a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. If you can’t make it to Washington D.C. in person, there’s a virtual tour you can take instead. Consider visiting a local art gallery or historical society if they host a special celebration.

Here are some worthwhile options in larger cities across the country:

  • California African American Museum in Los Angeles
  • America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee 
  • Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama
  • Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia 
  • Louis Armstrong House and Museum in New York

6. Support Fundraising Initiatives

Juneteenth Celebration Invitation

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Invitation Inspiration: Juneteenth Celebration Invitation

If you don’t have a lot of time to attend all-day activities, show your support for the Black community by donating to fundraising initiatives. Make a conscious effort to support these initiatives year round, like volunteering your time to a local social justice nonprofit. You can also donate money to a national cause or organization that fights for equality.

7. Listen to a Podcast

With podcasts and online interviews, it’s easier than ever to hear stories and listen to conversations from Black leaders and people involved in social justice. You can listen to podcasts about racial equality or subscribe to podcasts from Beyond Black History Month and For Colored Nerds, which cover everything from history and food to current events.

8. Join a Book Club

Whether you’re already part of a book club or joining a new one, June is the perfect month to learn more about Black history. Celebrate Juneteenth with a book that explores emancipation and racial equality. Choose books written by Black authors and invite a guest speaker to guide the discussion or give a special presentation.

9. Attend a Juneteenth Festival or Parade

Music Celebration Invitation

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Invitation Inspiration: Music Celebration Invitation

Join millions of Black Americans and attend local or national parades and festivals celebrating Juneteenth. Find out if your local town is hosting an event or make plans to drive to a nearby city. If you own a business, consider donating prizes for raffles or ask your team to volunteer to run a booth at the parade. 

10. Make It a Paid Day

If you run a business or manage a team, make Juneteenth a paid holiday for your staff. Encourage employees to use the time to volunteer for social justice causes or to learn more about the importance of the day and Black culture. For even bigger impact, offer to match employees donations to nonprofits focused on racial equality.

Host Your Own Juneteenth Event

With these Juneteenth celebration ideas, you’ll find ways to honor African American heritage and freedom. From cultural and educational activities to food and parades, there are plenty of ways to mark this occasion.

Hosting a special Juneteenth event? Browse our selection of Juneteenth invitations featuring designs to suit your celebration. Each design is customizable and delivery is easy. Simply upload your contacts and hit send to deliver the invite via text or email. When guests open the invite, they’ll be sure to hit yes on their RSVP.